Tuesday, August 12, 2014

#RPGaDAY #3: First RPG Purchased -- Tunnels & Trolls 5th Edition

It happened approximately one month before the Great Sweet Pickles Bus War of 7th grade. My friend Mark and I had been competing over who could purchase the most Michael Whelan covered Elric novels and who could purchase the most obscure role playing game. Given the number of game stores in Reno, NV at the time and the purchasing power of 7th graders, the phrase "obscure roleplaying game" is better defined as "a game not published by TSR."

Mark struck first with his purchase of the Tunnels & Trolls 5th edition rules from Flying Buffalo. I was really impressed when Mark showed me his copy and I knew that I had to find my own copy - and get some of those "solo dungeons" that used the Tunnels & Trolls system. It didn't take long for me to find the rules and copies of Arena of Khazan, City of Terrors, and Beyond the Silvered Pane. Before I knew it, I was enjoying hours upon hours of role playing fun. I had a file card case full of combatants for Arena of Khazan, and a handful of characters who survived long enough to become precious to me.

While there are some detractors of the Tunnels & Trolls game system, I have always thought that the game was not only enjoyable but also innovative.

  1. Liz Danforth's art and editing in the 5th edition of the game set it apart from many other publication of the era. The 5th edition is a truly professional edition and prior to the soon to be released "Deluxe Edition" it has been my go to edition of the game.
  2. Ken St. Andre's version of the Saving Throw as presented in T&T has had a deep influence on the gaming industry. Where D&D at the time had saves for "spells," "poison," and "rods, staves, wands" T&T had a system that used a character's attributes against a target number. It took D&D several generations before they adopted something similar with the 3rd edition rules set, and completed the transition with their own 5th edition. Prior to 3.0, stat checks in D&D were typically "roll stat value or less on d20" and 3.0 changed that to roll d20+stat modifier vs. target. T&T's system uses a simple formula [15 + (level of challenge x 5)] - Statistic = Target Number on open ended 2d6. Dan Eastwood does a nice statistical breakdown of the system here.
  3. The concept of exploding dice was new with T&T and though T&T explodes on doubles where some other games explode on largest value, it isn't hard to see the influence of T&T.
As I mentioned earlier, Moldvay Basic was the first rpg game system I owned, but T&T 5th edition was the first edition that I spent my own allowance on. It was my first purchase, and it is still one of my first loves. I might just crack open that file card case this evening.

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